The South Korean national flag is seen hanging on a government complex building in Seoul. File Photo by Kim Hee-Chui/EPA-EFE
SEOUL, Oct. 16 (UPI) -- South Korea ranked first among 33 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's Digital Government Index, a survey that measures the level and maturity of government digitization efforts.
The index's top countries have made "consistent and comprehensive efforts to implement coherent digital government reforms," said the OECD report, which was released Wednesday. "Their outstanding results derive from long-term institutional arrangements and sustainable strategies."
This year marked the first edition of the index, which surveyed 29 OECD member and four non-member countries. Data for some countries, including the United States, Australia, Switzerland and Mexico, was not available.
Countries were rated according to six metrics. South Korea scored especially well for its sustained efforts to integrate digital technology into existing government systems, its digital delivery of services to citizens and the openness of its data, processes and services to the public.
Following South Korea in the top five were Britain, Colombia, Denmark and Japan.
President Moon Jae-in said Friday the ranking was "the result of considerable time and efforts starting from the Kim Dae-jung administration," according to presidential spokesman Kang Min-seok. Kim was president of South Korea from 1998 to 2003.
"Digital government is directly connected to the daily life of the people," Moon said, and pointed to the speed and effectiveness of South Korea's government in disbursing emergency support funds to citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic as an example.
Moon also highlighted his administration's Korean New Deal, an ambitious $139 billion package of economic, environmental and social reforms that includes a Digital New Deal as a centerpiece.
The Digital New Deal will focus on South Korea's competitiveness in technologies such as 5G, big data, artificial intelligence and remote working and learning. The plan calls for heavy government integration, including healthcare and public sector big data platforms and smart infrastructure systems.
The OECD report stressed the importance of digital government in times of crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Well-established digital governments can help make government more resilient and responsive -- qualities that become acutely important in times of emergency, as the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated," the report said.
In a press release, South Korea's Interior Minister Chin Young said the government's "innovative efforts to actively promote digital transformation in the public sector have been internationally recognized.
"We will continue to promote digital government in order to lead the post-pandemic era," Chin said.